MILAN – The fossils were found in the same region of Ethiopia where archaeologists found the remains of Lucy, the most famous hominid lived between 4 and 3 million years ago. Now scientists have christened a new and different species of hominid: the “close relative.”
The bones of the jaw and teeth were found on 4 and 5 March 2011 in the Ethiopian region of Afar, the same one where almost forty years ago were found the remains of Lucy, a team of researchers from the Natural History Museum of Cleveland. Now hominids to which these remains belonged were assigned to a new species, Australopithecus Deyiremeda, which in the language of the people of Afar means “close relative.”Thanks to radiocarbon dating, paleomagnetic and geological analyzes, it could be established that these fossils date from between 3.5 and 3.3 million years ago. This means that the new species overlapped in time with the species it belongs to Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis, dating back 3.8 to 2.9 million years ago.
Teeth and different diets
What they had in common these Australopithecus, and what else?Certainly they shared the geographic region in which they lived, as well as several morphological traits. The “close relative” of Lucy, however, had also taken very different. The mandible was more robust, while the teeth, the enamel often, were of different shape and size, smaller.Especially the canines, much smaller than in any other hominid remains.The fact that the front teeth are rather small indicate that, despite the two species of Australopithecus were living side by side, their diets were probably different. It is believed that the remains found belong to four individuals, who had drawn mixed ape-human (is the last month, about whether mixed, the news that, decades after his discovery, scientists have realized that among the Lucy’s bones are shuffled those of a monkey).
Living with Lucy
The new species is further evidence that the race of Lucy was not the only hominid species to inhabit the Afar region in the Middle Pliocene.”The current fossil evidence shows emphatically that there were two, if not three, human species that lived in the same era and in geographical proximity – said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, lead author of the study, published in Nature , and the project leader paleontological Woranso-Mille in the Afar region. One issue, that of the coexistence of different species of hominids, debated for decades. The discoveries of the last fifteen years, however, make it now very weak traditional theory of single lineage (by Lucy down) from which flows Homo.
The branches of the tree
The morphology of the jaw and dental anatomy of Australopithecus deyiremeda also shows how in the fossil appear sooner than previously thought some characteristics traditionally associated with the kind of mammals hominid Paranthropus (2.7-1 million years ago) and to the genus Homo – whose origin would be moved back to 2.8 million years ago by recent research on discoveries made always in the Afar region.Our family tree is enriched, and is complicated.